In July 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was apparently shot down over Eastern Ukraine by a Buk missile. Tragically, 298 lives were lost.

The majority of those on board were Dutch, so the criminal case against those allegedly responsible is taking place in Amsterdam. Three Russian men and one Ukrainian man are accused of shooting down the plane. One of the Russians has defense counsel, while the other three men are being tried in absentia.

Now, families of those killed are filing lawsuits against the four men. As in the United States, Dutch law allows family members to sue for damages in aviation accidents, even when the event was caused by criminal action.

The criminal trial began in March, in the midst of the pandemic. It resumed Monday to hear from the lawyers for approximately 450 family members of the deceased. Although no claims have actually been filed, over 300 relatives have said they plan to file. And, 76 of the relatives plan to make victim impact statements, which will generally be done via video or recording.

Relatives who wish to participate have a deadline of Feb. 1, 2021.

Defense blames pandemic for slowing down the proceedings

The single man who has lawyers is currently in Russia, and COVID-19 has made traveling to meet with him difficult. His attorneys complain that their flights from Amsterdam to Moscow have repeatedly been canceled. They have been unable to get to Russia from alternate cities, too.

The public prosecutor, clearly frustrated by the delays, offered to help the defense book a flight from Amsterdam to Moscow, if necessary.

Victims’ families have a right to answers

When a plane crash occurs and lives are lost, the victims’ families need answers. It can take time for an investigation to determine what caused the crash and who should be held responsible. Even when the cause is straightforward, victims’ families may have many questions. It is important to work with an attorney who knows how to handle aviation cases.